So we are riding our bikes back home [to our apartment on the campus of
Anyway, its midwinter and it’s chill and damp and we are headed home to our cold apartment on campus to get under our big heavy comforters and watch a pirated movie on my laptop. And, not surprisingly, we ride past some people shooting off fireworks. This happens in at least 3 locations in town every night when it gets dark enough. It’s one of the few things to do in town.
And I know the Chinese invented gunpowder for this exact purpose, and they know how to make them, the probably supply America with all of ours, but I’ve never 1) been this close to people setting them off, and I mean actual rockets that are red and green and explode in the standard bloom shape, and 2) seen one explode maybe 30 ft above an intersection where people are walking and riding their bikes and kids are playing.
And I know I should be more worried about the SARS epidemic that has just hit the news, or protecting my mental and emotional health which is strained living under a very stringent, repressive, communist government/school administration, or fearing that every one of my kids will have their beautiful, bouncy energy and curiosity for life squelched out of them through the mind-numbing educational system, but instead, I’m freaking out about the personal safety of the guy setting of fireworks with a faulty cigarette lighter on the street corner and whether the rocket will shoot straight up, or somehow angle itself toward my head.
I should feel exhilarated by the celebratory nature of these loud expressions of joy—I’m sure it’s someone’s birthday or some happy occasion for the family, but I can’t handle when everything reverberates and I feel like my chest is being knocked on and the shrapnel rains down upon us. It feels like a war zone.But they tell us we are safe. So what can we do but believe them, even as all the evidence points to the opposite? Like the sign posted near the back gate of campus: “SARS: Smile And Retain Smile.” Gallows humor, maybe, but its better than crying every night.